Facebook's unveiling of its new location-based service, "Places," on Wednesday evening was interesting as much for what wasn't said during some of the presentations by Facebook's "partners" (read: rivals and potential frenemies) in the location-based social network arena.
After Facebook's product manager for Places, Michael Sharon, shared some details about the new service -- which allows you to check in to locations, see which friends are there, and get recommendations for new places based on your friends' experiences -- Facebook trotted out representatives from four partners to explain their planned collaborations with Places. Mercifully, everyone seemed to understand the value of brevity, and most of them sounded genuinely enthusiastic about the prospect of working with Facebook --especially the prospect of drawing on Facebook's giant user base to build their growing location-based services.
For example, Scott Raymond from Gowalla noted that his service had Facebook compatibility "built in from day one," and unveiled further integration allowing Gowalla members to publish updates to their Facebook profiles with Gowalla's distinctive virtual passport stamps. Keith Lee of Booyah said the service has created a new app integrated with Facebook called InCrowd, which will "utilize all real-time social interactions, with a half game, half social utility." And Yelp's mobile products developer, Eric Singley, said a new Yelp app combining check-ins and Facebook will debut today.
The odd man out was Foursquare's vice-president for mobile and partnerships, Holger Luedorf, who acknowledged "it's a great thing that Facebook is entering this market" because (in essence) it validates what Foursquare is already doing. He then reviewed Foursquare's success to date, including its growing user base and positive feedback from members who say they have discovered new places and activities thanks to the service. He also hinted at new features which will refine Foursquare's location-based recommendations.
And that was it -- not a word about any collaboration with Facebook Places, except a vague remark towards the end that "We're looking forward to how we're going to leverage that for the Foursquare experience and make it a really quality experience." If I had to summarize the tone of his presentation, I would say: calculated indifference bordering on a snub. This was no mistake, judging by remarks from other Foursquare execs, including CEO Dennis Crowley, who was quoted by the New York Times as saying, "We'll wait to see what the product looks like, play around with it and see if its something we want to integrate with."
All of which is certainly understandable, given the potential for competition between Foursquare and Facebook. But then, why even show up at the Facebook press conference? Maybe to earn the "phoning it in, in person" badge?